It has been forty years since Wayne Shorter played with Miles Davis. He's now approaching eighty, but this by no means hinders his skill to both play music and draw a crowd, with only a handful of free seats remaining at Birmingham’s Town Hall.
The first set, however, was allotted to the Jazzlines Trio, fronted by the young and talented Reuben James, who took the place of the late Abraham Wilson. As a result, the night was dedicated to him, and the first set felt like a testament to Jazz past. Along with their own likeable compilations, the trio played classics such as Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Lady and Wilson's own Steak and Potatoes, all of which truly wet the appetites of the audience for Shorter.
There's no denying that the Wayne Shorter Quartet are good on record, but the true genius of their music shows when they play live. While pianist Danilo Pérez threw out complex melodies that verged into a New Age sound, complete with him incorporating the piano lid and insides themselves into the music, bassist John Patitucci churned out fast grooves that sometimes found Eastern and Latin styles, and drummer Brian Blade tapped along with varying intensity from slow and tempered to points where it was barely possible to see his hands moving. Mixing this satisfying melting pot together is Shorter himself, who played tenor and soprano saxophones with such intensity and conviction it was easy to forget everything else and just become fixated by the music.
Such was the standard of the Quartet's performance it is difficult to give fault, even where it's due. There were a few sound glitches, prompting members of the sound team to run on and off intermittently, but this was a minor annoyance at most. One man to my right complained afterwards that Shorter only played two songs which, while true, was eclipsed by the fact the first of these, without exaggeration, was an hour long, the energy not dying at any point, and Blade playing constantly for the whole song.
Despite this, the Quartet played a great show that is likely to stick in the mind of those watching for a long time. As Tony Dudley-Evans, head of the Jazzlines programme puts it ‘This is one of the greatest moments in the whole Jazzlines programme' and perhaps even the whole Birmingham Jazz scene.